Champions of Masters Berlin, dominant in the CIS and EMEA regional qualifiers, and one map win away from a World Championship at the peak level of VALORANT. Despite a heartbreaking loss to Acend, the Gambit roster realizes the impact they’ve made during the 2021 run

The first full circuit run for VALORANT esports will be defined predominantly by one team: Gambit.

Champions of Masters Berlin, dominant in the CIS and EMEA regional qualifiers, and one map win away from a World Championship at the peak level of VALORANT. Despite a heartbreaking loss to Acend, the Gambit roster realizes the impact they’ve made during the 2021 run.

Gambit spoke with the media after the narrow 3-2 series loss on the historical significance of their VCT run, while recognizing that there are still many areas for this team to grow heading into 2022.

“It was historical. We did some incredible things,” said star sentinel player nAts.”We could’ve played better today but it was a huge experience. We’ll participate again against international teams and next year we will show something interesting.”

Icebox choke looms large

After a promising start to the series for Gambit, taking the first two out of three maps on Breeze and Fracture, the match shifted quickly to Icebox. On Icebox, the lead changed eight teams on 26 rounds as the two teams went blow-for-blow on a map pick that both hovered around a 50% win rate on.

For Gambit initiator Bogdan “Sheydos” Naumov, it’s a map he won’t forget anytime soon. Gambit sat on map and championship point, 12-11, before dropping three straight rounds to Acend and losing the map, 14-12.

“Maybe I backed away on the last effort that was needed to finish the game,” said Sheydos on the final rounds of Icebox.

Gambit dejected but not defeated

Overall, the Gambit side was dejected but not defeated. The tone from Gambit in the post-game press conference was a team that felt like something was taken from them. They talked as if all it would take to return here is the same level of preparation and hard work they showed at Champions. Star Sova player, Timofey “Chronicle” Khromov, who delivered an MVP level performance all tournament long, says the team didn’t quite reach its full potential.

“It’s obvious that for keeping this performance in the next event, I will train even harder to win and play like that,” said Chronicle on his Champions performance. “I made so many mistakes and Grand Finals was the crucial moment for me. I didn’t think I played at the maximum.”

As for the moment, the momentum swung back to the Acend side, the backbreaking overtime loss on Icebox is the main culprit. Entering the finals with mixed results on Icebox, it was crucial for Gambit to end the series there and not let it linger onto Split. Split’s a map Acend has excelled on in the past. Of course, despite a strong second-half defense, Mehmet “cNed” Yağız İpek started to win in unwinnable rifle duels and find lurking kills from Gambit re-take attempts.

The faulty Gambit attack

Furthermore, Gambit struggled mightily on the attacking side of all of the stronger Acend maps. On Breeze, a map Gambit won, the first round half score was 9-3. Only until the second-half defense did the comeback start for Gambit. On Ascent, Gambit looked utterly lost against the Acend executes and constantly found themselves overwhelmed on-site holds.

“If you’re playing attack side, every mistake is punishing so much harder than if you’re playing on defense side,” said Chronicle, “and that’s maybe the main moment of this and that’s the main reason why we often play really bad on the attack side, that we’re making so many mistakes and always being punished for that” 

Outside of Fracture, Gambit faltered on every single attacking round vs Ascend and dominated on the defensive side. This was a recurring theme with Gambit throughout Champions. They picked up the narrative of being capable of coming back from any deficit. The narrative spawned from their deficiencies on the defensive side, while their attacking side executes and defaults were nearly flawless.

Circling back to the Gambit collapse, it was potentially the amped-up pressure of Champions. It was playing on less favorable maps, while Acend were floated their strongest maps. Or possibly, it was just a bad day from the world’s best team. Either way, Gambit sees this loss as a massive underperformance and missed opportunity.

Igor “Redgar” Vlasov summed up the general feeling amongst the Gambit players in one sentence:

“The main opponent for us was ourselves”

Redgar on Gambit’s biggest obstacle

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Blake Van Poucke -

Blake Van Poucke

| Twitter: @TokyoDown

Blake Van Poucke is a Valorant writer at esports.gg. He found esports through the early days of MLG and the Super Smash Bros Melee scene. He's been competing and writing about esports dating back to 2008. He has written for several publications and wishes to return to in-person esports events in 2022